Atlantic Ocean, steaming south at 14 knots

Battleship Royal Sovereign in the Indian Ocean. (source:

Yesterday the battleship HMS Royal Sovereign has joined the convoy. This World War I veteran is accompanied by five destroyers. Four destroyers from the existing escort now leave the convoy.

England can only continue the war effort if she can be supplied over sea. Germany has calculated that if it sinks more than 300,000 GRT of shipping per month (which is about 40 Abbekerks), England will literally starve and will not be able to continue the war. Simply put,  the German Kriegsmarine has to sink merchant ships faster than England can build them. To do so the Kriegsmarine not only uses U-boats, but also surface warships. From disguised but heavily armed merchant ships (‘merchant raiders’) upto battleships that should be able to destroy entire convoys.

Abbekerk ws8a 1941_3

Abbekerk sailing in convoy WS.8a half a year earlier.  (picture taken from Abbekerk by F.J.C Schimmel)

Earlier that year England, with a lot of luck, found and destroyed the biggest battleship of all times the Bismarck before she could threaten any convoys. For England the threat of cruisers and battleships is the main reason to have important convoys accompanied by ( often outdated) battleships. In Germany the Bismarck debacle was reason to completely lose faith in surface vessels and to appoint all resources to the building of more U-boats. But that is not known to the allies at that point.

The WS 12z escort varies a lot. On the one hand because certain areas are thought of to be less dangerous than others but also because of the limited range of the smaller war ships and the fact that one ship could be assigned to more than one convoy. Also many major ports have their own ships to escort convoys coming in and going out. WZ 12z’s escort always constists of a minimum of five destroyers.

The route of WS.12z (source:

The route of WS.12z

Below an oversight of the impressive logistics of convoy escorting. ( with thanks to day-by-day 1941):

  • Destroyers WHITEHALL, WITCH, BADSWORTH, VANQUISHER, and EXMOOR from 13 to 16 November.
  • MAORI     was with the convoy from 13 to 17 November. The destroyer arrived at     Gibraltar on the 20th for duty in the 19th Destroyer Flotilla.
  • Battleship     ROYAL SOVEREIGN and destroyers FURY, FORESTER, and FORESIGHT     departed the Clyde on the 12th to join the convoy. They were route     via Milford Haven and south of Ireland. On the 13th, the warships     arrived at Milford Haven and departed later that day to join the     convoy.
  • Destroyers     FURY, FORESIGHT, and FORESTER escorted the convoy from 16 to 19     November.   
  • On the 19th, destroyers FORESIGHT, FORESTER, and FURY parted company     with the convoy in 34-05N, 25-50W to refuel from oiler DINGLEDALE.     The destroyers then proceeded to search for an enemy merchant ship     report.
  •  Destroyer     FORESTER later proceeded to Ponta Delgada to complete fuelling. She     departed on the 22nd and rejoined destroyers FORESIGHT and FURY.
  •  Battleship     ROYAL SOVEREIGN and destroyers DULVERTON and SOUTHWOLD escorted the     convoy from 16 to 24 November.
  •  Destroyers     VIMY and VELOX escorted the convoy from 21 to 24 November.
  •  Corvette     CLOVER escorted the convoy from 22 to 24 November.    

The convoy arrived at Freetown on the 24th.

  • Destroyers SOUTHWOLD and DULVERTON from 28 November to 14 December.
  • Battleship ROYAL SOVEREIGN escorted the convoy from 28 November to 18 December.
  • Sloop MILFORD and corvettes VERBENA and HOLLYHOCK escorted the convoy from 28 November to 15 December.
  • Corvettes ASTER and MARGUERITE escorted the convoy from 15 December to 18 December, when the convoy arrived at Durban.


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